AIG and Thoughts on Bonuses

I always thought that bonus is bonus, where bonus means something extra that is given when performance is above and beyond the norm, relative to a job scenario. Specifically, we must be careful performance is not measured on short-term and must be a balanced evaluation of both short-term and long-term benefits. And in real life, well, bonus is like icing on the cake. I still view bonus as such even now as I am working. I like them, but I do not count on one. That’s why we call it BONUS.

Past few days we keep hearing about the AIG bonus ordeal. I don’t mind them giving out bonus when they are due for performance, but obviously, we can agree that AIG’s performance and moreover, most of the financial sector and Wall Street’s performance call for no bonus. Not only what they did destroyed the value in the system (or created tremendous illusional value), they believe they deserve to take even more value away from it for personal gains.

Conscience anyone?

One article writes that AIG’s CEO Liddy said he needs to pay out “retention bonus”. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am not sure if retention is something to be worried about these days. There is also the generic claim that we need to keep financial expertsto fix up the system, but have we forgotten that these top people are the same people who dug us the abyss on the ground (and covered it up) in the first place over a period of time?

Truth be told, I would be ashamed to be paid anything if I had screwed things up so badly. I would be ashamed of all the money I was paid in the last few years. And why are the people that had led us into this mess still in their positions anyways? In the old days, if you have f***ed up so badly, you should at least have the gut to resign, if you didn’t get your butt fired in the first place. In the even older days, I think you will get your head loped off.

Accountability anyone?
Responsibility anyone?

Now the government is talking about regulations. Maybe. But that will do is for people to come up with new ways to circumvent the new regulations. The system is not right not because of the system. The system is not right because of the people.

I’m just going to ask a few questions now. I do not claim to have answers, but it is something that we all could think about.

Should it really be that the financial sector’s employees are “entitled” to bonus?
How did we come to “count on” bonuses?
How could so many claim to deserve their pay and bonus, individually, when their industry is entirely in shamble? Does not that equate to a citizen claiming he deserves food when his entire nation is starving? (at this point, I feel a little sick in my stomach)

Finally, the top people in companies are always paid in the millions…
But let’s be serious, how many millions does a person really NEED?

Originally posted 2009-03-18 22:29:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Efficient Driving

As a part of my frugality, I feel that I have always drive my car quite fuel-efficiently. Even driving both locals and highways, I am able to get around 28 MPG each time out of my Scion tC, which is measured at 23/30 MPG. I’ve always tried not to have to brake and timed the street lights to avoid full stops. I thought that was pretty good!

But alas, check out this dude named Wayne Gerdes – the Hypermiler from Wisconsin, who takes it to the next level.

But it was driving his wife’s Acura mdx that moved Wayne up to the next rung of hypermiler driving. That’s because the suv came with a fuel consumption display (fcd), which shows mpg in real time. As he drove, he began to see how little things—slight movements of his foot, accelerations up hills, even a cold day—influenced his fuel efficiency. He learned to wring as many as 638 miles from a single 19-gallon tank in the mdx; he rarely gets less than 30 mpg when he drives it. “Most people get 18 in them,” he says.

But if you read, some of his techniques include going into sharp exits/turns at 50 mph! AND by turning off the engine and glide! I’m not sure if I want to do that… and I am definitely not one to drive like a dead man at 50 mph on a 65 mpg speed limit highway. Especially I’m in the Bay Area, I probably get flicked off and perhaps even tailgated and assaulted. Haha…

But there is a lesson, which is to drive fuel-efficiently as much as we can:

  • Avoid complete stops without having accidents :)
  • Go easy on the brakes. Note that your cars DO slow down if you take the foot off the gas pedal.
  • Get to know the traffic light pattern in your local area.
  • Start gliding if you see a red light ahead
  • Drive at a consistent speed.

Originally posted 2007-03-08 21:54:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

My Story

Today, I share with you a story of myself, for the benefits of those of you curious about the writer of this very very exciting blog *laugh*. For those of you who are uninterested, you can stop reading now.

For those of you who are still reading, I will try not kill you with boredom.

I was airdropped onto a frozen part of America, aka Mid West, in the middle of winter as a pre-teenager from Hong Kong. As a small Asian male with very little fat cells, it was the perfect time and place to be. I hope you realized my sarcastic tone. I had a cold that lasted me that whole winter, and the winter was loooooooooooooooong in Michigan.

Why the ice-land? The idea was to be close to relatives. Though, the main purpose for my parents to move to the States is still the education and future of their children. This is important because I would otherwise only have a “lowly” bachelor degree today. Kidding about the “lowly” part.

I never really enjoyed those early years in the U.S. because I had to help my parents due to English barrier, while my siblings were away at college for most of those time. Imagine a young teenager dealing with bills, writing checks, balancing accounts, reading work-benefits policy, visiting banks and insurance agency… Now imagine Paris Hilton reading the Constitution and studying mountains of text for Harvard Law. And I still had to deal with school work. I also had no idea about Simpsons and Dunkin’ Donuts and Backstreet Boys. I was as FOB-ish as can be in a mostly black and white community. It was impossible NOT to get picked on. And don’t get me started on the house chores. It was definitely GOOD time. I did enjoy the part where they all think about me what Keanu Reeves’s famous for saying, “I know Kung Fu.”

An extra little fact is that during this time, I, this clueless teenager only knew some half-ass English, is the translator in the house… at least attempting to doso. The best stuff were these insurance policy materials that contain “sophisticated” words and legal jargons. The result amounted to something like Chris Tucker trying to speak Chinese… But I digress.

I did not write about all these to complain. Besides to humor you, I mentioned these experience because I believe they have a huge impact on what I would become and how I would handle money. Most importantly, I realized how money can become such big issue in life. Yeah, I am real brainiac :P Moving on…

For my undergraduate studies, I was lucky enough to obtain enough scholarships to cover the 4 years at a state university. Additionally, I worked half-time in my college department as a slave system administrator to support my lifestyle. During that time, I spent some and saved some, without paying too much attention. I paid off credit cards monthly and never carried any balance. I believe this is the result of family influence, without noticing it myself then. As a computer science geek, I am as big a party animal I could be. I spent money eating out and for some evening outtings as many fellow students did. I did not travel to exotic places to see women with beads as vacation, but I did incur a lot of expense as a fencing team member. Besides the athletic part of the fencing experience, I was able to visit many college campus in different states (even Florida!), bonded with my fellow teammates, and met lots of other students from other universities. Although it cost me a lot during the 4 years, it’s not something I’d ever regret doing. This goes to show how money isn’t everything.

The tougher time comes during my master degree. First, let me say that I did not plan nor want to do a master degree because (1) my desire to become independent, (2) knowing there will be little financial support from family, (3) consequently, my concern with debt, and (4) I was never a big fan of school. I was a brat who is ready to become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs… yeah right. Anyways… life is not without a sense of irony. I was accepted into Stanford, to my surprise AND dismay. I finally decided to go for the sake of myself and for family expectation – to fulfill my “final” duty as a son. Remember my parents’ purpose of coming to the States?

I said “final” because it is part of my desire to become independent from my parents. You can chalk it up to typical relationship between son and very strict Asian parents.

At Stanford, no longer with any scholarship, I spent most of my savings (from scholarships and part-time in undergrad), took out student loans, and stopped to work full-time (and continued half-time during the rest of my school) in order to afford the tuition while opting only for subsidized loans. I did my best to make it through the 2 years. Before I found work, I sometimes starved myself until I can get home for dinner to save lunch money.

I kept telling myself this is an investment into myself. Hmmm, self-hypnotizing… that to get the Stanford name is akin to getting my name “gold-plated.” I was very fortunate to received help from my sister for a place to stay. Stanford’s environment began to shift my mentality and the tougher time makes me think, really think… It became the turning point for me…

To start learning about money.
To take charge of my own finance.
To try short-term stock trading. (bad idea…)
To understand that long-term is the way to think.
To know that having a corporate job will only get me so far, without supplements.
And most importantly, to take full responsibility for myself.

I used to envy peers who received support for school and especially, for their first real estate properties. However, I know now such envy is unnecessary. I know I would not become as independent had I gotten an easy way out. I would not have the confidence I have today. I would not act with backbone. I would not be an avid learner to study myself and the world around me. I am in the best place I can be. Oh, and of course, this blog would not exist otherwise either.

These experience also made it apparent to me, why a friend called me “a survivor” years back.

Hereby I conclude my little semi-autobiography. I notice I ended on more boring notes. My apology. Still, I hope you enjoy the read.

Originally posted 2008-02-25 00:32:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Partner/Rivalry on Quest of Personal Finance

Okay, I’ve been studying too long and want to take a break and scribble something on my blog. I have been reading many personal finance blogs lately, and I came across a post from Make Love, Not Debt:

A few weeks ago I was out having a few drinks with few coworkers during happy hour. One of my coworkers (CW1) noted that in a few weeks he will have been at the company for six months. Another coworker (CW2) remaked that he was then eligible to participate in the company retirement plan. Both of these coworkers are my age, maybe a little younger. The conversation went a little like this…

CW1: Hey, I’ll be at the company for six months in a few weeks!

CW2: Yeah dude, you’ll be eligible for our 401k. (but we have a SIMPLE IRA…or am I just being nitpicky?)

CW1: Yeah that’s cool.

Him: Yeah, I was thinking of rolling over my SIMPLE IRA to a Traditional IRA because I don’t like our investment options. I won’t be eligible to do that until May, though.

(blank stares)

CW2: Yeah, my boyfriend works at Morningstar, so he handles all of that stuff for me.

CW1: I don’t have a clue when it comes to that stuff.

CW2: Yeah. You guys watch Battlestar Galactica?


Although I haven’t begun my real professional career YET (being 2 months shy of graduation), I look around my peers, where a majority are older and/or full-time employees, and somehow I feel similar to the author here… Unfortunately I’ve heard more about young people not wanting to contribute to 401k because of how it reduces their paychecks, and NO young people who wants talk about personal finance and investment, etc around me.

As the title suggests, I would love to have a partner or even a rival to help push and/or encourage each other in learning these personal finance matters. But where can I find them? Makes sense? Oh well, it’s so late, I don’t care anymore.

That being said, I’ve been using a lot of excel for a class lately, and for fun I came up with a very rough, simplistic, interactive model to look at the growth of asset/net worth/whatever to put things in perspective a bit, with an initial asset that grows at a constant annual rate along w/ an annual contribution to the asset that grows by a separate constant amount. It actually makes future looks kind of hopeful. :P


Feel free to download the excel file and play with it, modify it. It’d be great if someone comes up with something interesting or a much more realistic model and send it back to me :)

Alright, back to study, ciao.

Originally posted 2006-11-07 04:13:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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